Tuesday, July 24, 2012

James Bond - Live and Let Die

Hot on the heels of Casino Royale came the rather surprising second Bond novel. Live and Let Die published in 1954.

This one was much more tricky to get through. Bond is sent to America to investigate Mr. Big who appears to have discovered a stash of pirate gold, and is using it to fund his work for SMERSH. After Bond and Leiter get into trouble in a Harlem nightclub they meet the villain and the beautiful Solitaire. The action move on to Florida and then Jamaica where Mr Big captures Bond and the girl and prepares to keel haul them.

If reading the first book was a bit uncomfortable because of Bond's (and Fleming's) views about women then this book is even worse in its depiction of black characters. Fleming obviously prided himself on his ability to record the New York slang of Harlem in the 1950s and the patois of Florida and Jamaica but sixty years later it is just horrible and makes for a very unpleasant reading experience.

At least Bond gets more to do in this one. He has a couple of scuffly fights and one protracted gunfight. When he and Solitaire are about to be dragged over the razor sharp coral and into Barracuda invested waters their miraculous escape comes about because of something Bond did earlier and not as the result of a Deus ex Machina device as in Casino Royale.

Bond has to give up his fine clothes for American regalia as part of his cover, likewise he eats American food and is pretty snobbish about it all. At least he gets a few decent drinks. There is no clever spy work to match the craft Bond displayed in the his first outing. On the whole Bond just seems like a blunt instrument who forces his way through Mr Big's organisation. Interestingly the bad guys know who Bond is from the moment he arrives in America and the idea of the "secret" agent who is known right across the world has begun.

Not an enjoyable read to be honest, let us hope the card game in the next book can set this marathon back on its feet.

Bond check list includes one villain with a medical condition, one beautiful bond girl with "jutting" breasts, one torture scene, but no sporting encounter.

James Bond will return in ... Moonraker!

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